I recently was watching a segment of the movie The Gospel of John, a scene taken from John 6, where many of those who had been following Jesus since the feeding of the 5,000 turned away because they found His teachings “too hard.” After watching many of these people walk away, Jesus turns to the 12 disciples and asks, “Do you also want to go away?”
“But Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’” (John 6:68-69, NKJV).
The scene in the movie is passionate. Peter falls on his knees before Jesus, caught up in glory and excitement because he has just experienced a breakthrough in more fully understanding who Jesus is. It seems at that moment that he does indeed comprehend who Jesus really is and what He is about.
But later, we see Peter having another big, light-bulb-on moment of confessing Christ. Shortly after another miracle of feeding 4,000 (recorded in both Matthew 15:32-39 and Mark 8:1-9), Jesus asks, “‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’” (Matthew 16:15-16, NKJV).
This time, we feel confident. Peter really does get it. And then we go on to see him denying Jesus, hiding scared and afraid, wondering what will happen next, and among those who doubted when Jesus first appeared to them after His resurrection.
So, Peter really didn’t get it, not completely. Not until after he witnessed Jesus’ death and resurrection, spoke with the resurrected Lord, and saw His ascension into heaven. Maybe, he didn’t understand everything until after the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
Yet, when he spoke all those fine words about Christ, the Son of the living God, he really meant it. Peter was a pretty straightforward guy. So when he declared to know and believe in Jesus Christ, he was all in. He hadn’t grasped everything there was to know about Jesus yet. But he had a sudden new glimpse now and again, and the illumination of the Person of Jesus from just one ray of light was enough to bring that strong man to his knees.
I can’t turn up my nose at Peter, for I am often just the same. Again and again, I have moments where I see and experience God in greater measure than I had before. He reveals Himself, makes Himself known in some way, and I feel that at last I see Him clearly. At last, I know Him as He truly is. Like Peter, I might declare what I have already known, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” but the confession carries more significance, more passion, because there is more understanding behind it. The magnificence of the discovery is unlooked for, the joy is overwhelming, and it seems at the moment as if the pinnacle has been reached.
And then, of course, I find that there is yet more to know of Him, another peak of breathtaking beauty, and another, and another. Each new sight of Him comes as a fresh and delightful surprise. And still, those are only foothills, and there are far greater heights to knowing God than I can even begin to surmise. Fortunately, the light grows brighter and my vision grows stronger the closer I come to Him.